The premium positions to go after in the 1st round are quarterback, left tackle, defensive line, edge rusher, and cornerback. History has shown that teams that use their premium picks on backs and receivers – no matter how good they end up being – don’t succeed in their ultimate goal.
Let’s look back one specific draft to see how drafting premium versus non-premium positions can impact a decade or longer. Let’s revisit the glorious 2005 NFL Draft!
The Bears had the 4th overall pick in the draft. The could have gone for a premium position and taken a cornerback from a deep class. Instead, they took a running back. Cedric Benson. He played three years for the Bears, never broke 700 yards in a season, and had a 3.8 yard average per carry.
Three of the next five picks were Pro Bowl cornerbacks (Adam Jones, Antrel Rolle, and Carlos Rodgers).
The Vikings had the 7th overall pick and could have also went for the deep cornerback class or some edge rushers if they wanted to go after a premium position. Nope, they wanted a wide receiver and took Troy Williamson. Williamson never got more than 500 yards or 2 touchdowns in a season.
The Lions had the 10th overall pick. They could have gone for a premium positions as well, but they also opted for a wide receiver, taking Mike Williams, who fared even worse than Troy Williamson. Williams didn’t even 500 yards total in his career with Detroit.
Three teams from the NFC North had top 10 picks and went for shiny objects instead of premier positions. The next three picks after 10 were Pro Bowl edge rusher DeMarcus Ware, Pro Bowl edge rusher Shawne Merriman, and Pro Bowl left tackle Jammal Brown.
Foolish, foolish teams, wasting top 10 picks on backs and receivers while there were absolute studs to be had at cornerback, edge rusher, and left tackle – the premier positions that top 10 picks should be used for.
There was also a quarterback available at the time. Quarterback, if you didn’t know, is also a very important position.
The Bears had Rex Grossman , so they obviously didn’t need a quarterback. The Lions had Joey Harrington, so they clearly didn’t need a quarterback, either. The Vikings had Dante Culpepper and also decided not to draft a quarterback.
Then came the Packers, who had 3-time MVP Brett Favre.
Maybe they didn’t need a quarterback as bad as the rest of the division, but they had a smart GM that understood how important the quarterback position was, so they took quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Had the Packers opted for a shiny object, they could have went for wide receiver Roddy White. He was the next skill position player to come off the board and went to four Pro Bowls and made the All Pro team once. He was a really good receiver… but he wasn’t a good value.
Premium positions can always provide more value.
Fifteen years later, the division is still feeling the effects of this draft. Three teams squandered top 10 picks on positions that are a dime a dozen.
One team, picking more than a dozen spots later, went for the premium position, even though it wasn’t a need. The Packers didn’t say “we’re in win now mode, let’s take bad value to get our old quarterback some weapons!”
They took the best player at a premium position.
And that draft changed history.
Want to go deeper into draft strategy? Want a better understanding of how the draft works and why teams do things that don’t seem to make sense? We’ve got you covered with our new book!
Get even deeper into understanding draft strategy with our new book (rated a #1 New Release): A Fan’s Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft: Strategies, Tactics, And Case Studies For Building A Professional Football Team
Available in ebook and paperback – and free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!
If you don’t have Kindle Unlimited, you can get a free trial of Kindle Unlimited here!
Don’t just watch the draft – understand it and learn why GMs make the moves they do.
Check out Packers Draft Central 2020 for all our 2020 NFL Draft coverage!